Have you participated in a hybrid presentation? Then you’ve likely experienced firsthand some of the problems with poorly executed hybrid presentations. Late starts, distracted presenters, difficulty seeing or hearing others, or being seen or heard yourself, are the norm rather than the exception. As a participant it’s easy to tune out. As a presenter it’s easy to long for the good old days when audiences were either virtual or live – not both!
Hybrid presentations come with their own unique challenges.
Proper planning can eliminate some potential mishaps (see Best Practices for Hybrid Presentations: Part 1), but once the meeting is underway, new challenges appear. Besides requiring excellent face-to-face and virtual presentation skills, hybrid presenters struggle with how to:
- Maintain attention and interest from both live and remote participants
- Manage discussion without alienating one group
- Ensure everyone feels equally seen and heard
- Read both audiences for reactions and questions
Below are some best practices for delivering a hybrid presentation that will keep your audience engaged, and keep you from losing your mind!
Master The First Two Minutes
The first few minutes of any presentation set your audience’s expectations and first impressions. The start of a hybrid presentation is often, to be kind, messy. The presenter is talking to live participants as remote members wait to be let in. Once in, remote participants are often left in the dark for long stretches. Technical issues cause delays and the live audience starts to fidget. This adds up to a very poor first impression.
To start your presentation off on the right foot, follow these tips:
- Encourage remote participants to join 5-10 minutes early.
Besides giving you an opportunity to greet them, you want to avoid the distraction and delays of having to let people into your meeting during those first few moments. (Tip: Use a producer for this and other technology matters.)
- Greet everyone as they enter.
Have you ever walked into a party and been intimidated because all the other guests were talking to each other? That’s how it feels to enter a hybrid meeting as a remote participant. If possible, greet each participant quickly and succinctly.
- Repeat introductions.
Introducing in-person participants to remote attendees helps each group feel more connected. Bonus: people will be more likely to consider the other group during discussion.
- Don’t get laser-focused on the action happening in the room. Remember to check your panel!
- Explain how each audience will engage (raised/virtual hands, shout out, chat…)
Attention is fleeting under the best of circumstances so don’t lose it because of a few avoidable missteps on your part. Follow these guidelines to ensure your audience stays attentive:
- Look at the camera.
The camera is the eyes of your remote audience. And if you are a remote presenter, the camera is also the eyes of your live audience. Only when you are looking at your camera will your audience feel like you are speaking or listening to them. Find out the right way to make direct eye contact on camera here.
- Point, annotate or whiteboard on your remote platform – regardless of whether you are remote or in person. This ensures equal visibility for both groups.
- Place your focus on your remote audience.
Don’t worry – you are not likely to forget your live audience! The way you are wired ensures your attention will constantly be drawn to those in the room with you. Which is why you’ll need to favor your remote participants in order to balance things out.
Draw out Remote Participants:
Virtual participants are typically much more passive and less likely to engage than those you share a space with. To avoid losing this entire chunk of your audience, follow the best practices below:
- Don’t let in-person attendees (or don’t you!) dominate the discussion
- Check your remote panel first after asking a question
- Rotate calling on live and virtual attendees
- Look at the camera when you ask a question
Systematically Read the Room/Zoom
With so many demands on your attention and an audience in two different locations, you must have an orderly, practiced way of reading your audience. Knowing where to place your focus and when will simplify your efforts and help you better stay on top of your attendees. Here are a few guidelines from our Presentation Workshops:
- Greeting attendees: panel >, camera > room
- Checking for questions: panel > room
- Listening/responding to remote questions: camera
- Listening/responding to in-person questions: room
- Asking questions: camera
- Checking body language: panel > room
Asking or receiving questions can be tricky in a hybrid environment. People check out when they feel they’ve been ignored so incorporate these best practices:
- Have a list of all participants in front of you and check off names as you ask/answer questions
- Give remote members time to find their “virtual hand” and unmute themselves
- Repeat all questions asked or answered
Successful hybrid presentations don’t just happen.
Put these best practices into place when delivering your presentation and you’ll soon be the exception to the rule.
P.S. don’t forget to start with a winning plan by reading the 3 Best Practices for planning Hybrid Presentations.
You’ll find hundreds of tips on better hybrid and virtual presentations in my new book that won the Gold Medal Top Sales Book of 2021, Look Me In The Eye Using Video to Build Relationships with Customers, Partners and Teams.
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